An incident on a CNN blog on Friday morning revealed how sensitive the news channel could be about arguing with the official dogma surrounding Andrew Wakefield. When the present writer – posting at breakfast UK time and the middle of the night Eastern - contested the fraud allegations repeated in an op ed piece by Frank Y. Wong, an associate professor at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University the news channel responded with blocking tactics. Pointing to the exoneration of Wakefield’s senior colleague and author, Prof John Walker-Smith, in the British high court two years ago, I was immediately countered by a poster called “Tony” quoting paragraphs from the Wiki entry on Andrew Wakefield. I then found that my next response went straight into moderation never to see the light of day and a similar comment forwarded to me by an acquaintance was also blocked by the same method. All this happened within a very few minutes although it was the middle of the night in the US. The page now reveals that no less than nine responses to “Tony” were deleted (presumably all before publication). When I subsequently commented elsewhere on the blog there was no block: it was specific to this comment.
The Wiki entry on Andrew Wakefield has a pharmaceutical Praetorian guard surrounding it preventing it from ever being corrected, and plainly CNN realised that they were on to a loser if this discussion continued. My deleted comment read:
But this is a flawed account. The findings were confirmed by both histopathologists in the paper subsequent to the hearing (here and here)
When the Deer/BMJ findings came under the scrutiny of Dr David Lewis in November 2011 they were forced to re-trench (reported in Nature):
“But he (Bjarnason) says that the forms don't clearly support charges that Wakefield deliberately misinterpreted the records.
"The data are subjective. It's different to say it's deliberate falsification," he says.
“Deer notes that he never accused Wakefield of fraud over his interpretation of pathology records…
“Fiona Godlee, the editor of the BMJ, says that the journal's conclusion of fraud was not based on the pathology but on a number of discrepancies between the children's records and the claims in the Lancet paper…”
Although Godlee had previously stated in February 2011:
“The case we presented against Andrew Wakefield that the1998 Lancet paper was intended to mislead was not critically reliant on GP records”. It is primarily based on Royal Free hospital records, including histories taken by clinicians, and letters and other documents received at the Royal Free from GPs and consultants."
But it is clear that the judge who presided over Walker-Smith's exoneration and reviewed the Lancet paper in detail could not find any evidence of this. His one major quibble was over the statement about ethical approval paper which Walker-Smith says he did not see - however this is accurate too.
"Ethical approval and consent
"Investigations were approved by the Ethical Practices Committee of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust, and parents gave informed consent."
The paper did not have ethical approval and consent, and did not need it because it was simply a review of patient data (which was what was on the tin). The procedures needed ethical approval and consent and had them.
So Wiki does not tell you any of this but repeats an account that is long disproven.
And shamefully CNN are hiding behind it.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.